Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Courtside Conversations - Nov. 22, 2004
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: February 13, 2005
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It’s going to be okay! You don’t need a prescription and you don’t need a psychologist. Yes, I know it was difficult to watch the Wildcat women’s basketball team lose big at Ohio State. But let’s all get a dose of reality. An early loss may help more than it will hurt!


Let’s take Final Four entrant LSU for example. Last season, the Tigers went to Oregon and played a mediocre Duck squad and it was ugly from minute one. Bev Smith’s squad built a 41-26 halftime advantage over No. 9 Louisiana State and cruised to an 11-point win. Then, the Tigers turned around and were thumped at Penn State by an embarrassing score of 83-46. There had to be those who panicked, called for a new constitutional amendment and sought the council of the local witch doctor! But were these two losses devastating to the Tigers? Hardly. The eventual SEC runner-up reeled off 13 straight wins and lost a heartbreaker to Tennessee in the Final Four. In this case, two early losses helped more than they hurt.


Closer to home, Joan Bonvicini’s team was destroyed Wednesday night by the high-flying ninth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Arizona was beaten in every statistical category and it was just plain ugly. The freshmen played like freshmen and the veterans played like freshmen. But is it time to give up? Absolutely not!  To quote Men’s Director of Operations and radio analyst Ryan Hanson during their recent debacle at Virginia, “Arizona is still a work in progress.” This phrase well describes the women too.


No one likes to lose, but losses, better than any other way, point out deficiencies and shake the player back to reality. The Wildcats had coasted past Saint Mary’s and Rice and everything smelled like roses at McKale. But now the coaches have the attention of the players and there is plenty to work on.


First, Arizona must develop a consistent outside shooting presence. The Cats have been awful from beyond the ark so far this season. Secondly, the Wildcats must take the pressure off of Dee-Dee Wheeler and Shawntinice Polk. These two are great players but they can’t carry a team.


Thirdly, the team needs the freshmen to grow up early. There is a ton of talent on the Arizona bench, but Jessica Arnold, Ashley Whisonant, Ch?© Oh and Chari Smith won’t have the luxury of maturing slowly. Arizona needs them right now! Fourthly, Joan Bonvicini needs her veterans to step it up. Natalie Jones and Shannon Hobson must become consistent offensive contributors for the Wildcats to be big-time winners.


Up next for this group is a date in Provo, Utah, against BYU (1:30 .m. AM 1330 KJLL). The Cougars are coming off a 20-point win over Southern Utah and draw well at the gate. This will be a significant test. It’s one thing to be blown out by No. 9 Ohio State, but quite another if disaster strikes at the Marriott Center. It will be interesting to see how the locals respond.


But one thing is for sure. An early loss, here and there, does not mean a team has reached the end of the road. One of the beautiful things about college basketball is that a squad has time to change and grow. It very much comes down to how you are playing at the end of the season that decides how far you will advance in the Big Dance. For the Arizona Wildcats, it’s time for each player to look deep inside and ask, what can I do to help my team win? After all, sometimes an early loss helps more than it hurts!


See you on the radio!

Paul Johnson


All Wildcat games are broadcast live on 1330 KJLL radio.

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